François-Philippe Champagne says there’s a great buzz in Newfoundland and Labrador these days and it’s not all about Marystown figure skater Kaetlyn Osmond’s Olympic bronze medal.
The federal minister of International Trade says whether it’s export products and services from oil and gas, fisheries or the mining industry, last fall’s Canada-Europe Trade Agreement (CETA) and the recently inked Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) are providing individuals and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with an opportunity to prosper through trade diversification.
“When I look at this province, about 34 per cent of everything that’s produced is export, so this is a province which understands trade. Trade is in the DNA of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians,” Champagne told The Telegram prior to touring the Marine Institute’s food procesing pilot plant on Friday morning.
“Let’s work together to make sure our companies and our businesses are seizing the opportunity to get first mover advantage in these markets because we know in trade, first mover advantage is essential.”
Champagne’s stop in St. John’s was the last in his cross-country tour called #TradeTalks, which aimed to promote the new agreements and create more awareness of the markets and the opportunities to create jobs and foster prosperity.
“Canada has preferential market access to about 1.2 billion consumers in some of the biggest markets of the world and when we add the markets of the CPTPP, we’re going to add another 500 million people,” he said.
Asked if the tour was in response to the difficulties renegotiating the North America Free Trade Agreement, Champagne says it remains Canada’s most important trade relationship, worth $2.4 billion in goods and services per day.
Canada is the largest energy supplier to the United States and nine million American jobs rely on Canadian money.
“And let’s remember we are their biggest customer. Canada is a bigger customer than China, Japan and the (United Kingdom) combined. Our relationship is not one of seller and buyer. We do things together.
“That being said, I think that Canadians also understand that the world economy is being diversified, that deep markets like Europe having access is providing stability, predictability.”
In Newfoundland and Labrador, 60 per cent of the trade heads south of the border and 60 per cent of that relates to oil and gas. Champagne says that won’t change, but diversification is key and this province is ideally positioned — geographically and economically — to take advantage of expanded market access in Europe and CETA.
In oil and gas, Champagne sees an opportunity to bolster labrour mobility through CETA by connecting the local network with that in Aberdeen, Scotland, widely regarded as the centre of Europe’s petroleum industry.
In the fish and seafood sector, products produced in this province that are already in high demand become more competitive.
“If you look at Europe and Canada, this is the place to be to export to these markets. Now the connectivity we’ve done with Asia-Pacific is obviously about the Japanese market, we all know this is a very deep market for fish and seafood products, so this is a great story for this province,” Champagne said.